Noisy Deadlines

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

  1. Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood, 362p: This book made want to learn how to play chess! I didn't know anything about the world of professional chess, so it was interesting to learn. I loved that the characters show intellectual admiration for each other, instead of just physical attraction. There is friendship and love, although it starts with a competitive vibe to it. I wish the ending were longer, I wanted to know more details about their final chess tournament. Overall, I had lots of fun reading it, and it triggered feel-good emotions in me, I loved it!

  2. A Master of Djinn (The Dead Djinn Universe #1) by P. Djèlí Clark, 431p: Interesting world building: alternate history Egypt with magic and djinn in 1912 Cairo.  It's a murder mystery but I enjoyed the world building more than the characters. The main character, Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. She is investigating the murder of an English Basha, who is the Member of a Secret Brotherhood. The world is super rich with the Djinn having become integrated into society and magic allowed Egypt to become a powerful prominent economy. I figured out the murderer at about 60% and that made the book drag for me in the rest 40%. So, it was a bit annoying that Fatma was still going after false clues, getting lost in her search, while I already knew who the murderer was. Anyway, nice read but not one of my favorites.

  3. Beach Read by Emily Henry, 361p: Somehow the title of this book didn't really match with the story for me. I don't know why that bothered me. The main character is dealing with grief, and she inherits her father's house by the water. It's meta in the sense that the two main characters are writers, and they struck a deal for each one to write a book out of their comfort zone. The woman is a romance writer who tries to write literary fiction, and the man writes literary fiction and attempts to write romance. I thought the pacing was terribly slow and the book didn't keep me always interested.

  4. Divine Rivals (Letters of Enchantment #1) by Rebecca Ross, 368p: I loved this book! It was a five-stars read for me. I loved the idea of enchanted typewriters that can send letters! The two main characters are adorable, and it is such a lovely story about friendship, hardship, and love. So beautifully written without being excessively flowery. I felt a full range of emotions while reading this book: sadness, joy, grief, compassion, anger. I cried and I laughed. It just a sign of a really good book: when it can touch me so deeply without being depressing. I sympathized with the grief portrayed in this book, and it helped me deal with own feelings of grief that were buried deep inside. The love story is amazing! So adorable and so authentic! I loved the whole thing about exchanging letters, like unknown pen pals that somehow connect using words. I can't wait to read the second book! (it's a duology!)

  5. Practical Meditation: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide by Giovanni Dienstmann, 185p: I enjoyed most of this book, it gives an overview of meditation practices from different traditions. There are gorgeous graphics inside explaining key concepts. I loved the “Mindful Mind Flow” diagram! One thing that I missed was an audio companion to the book (I read the e-book version). There are instructions on distinct types of meditation, but it is best to have listened to these instructions while we are meditating. Good reference book as an introduction to meditation, but I think it’s hard for a beginner to start without an audio guiding the meditations.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

These are some of the things that happened in my life lately:

  • ⛸️I’ve made progress! I can do forward crossovers now! One side is better than the other, but I overcame my fear of crossing my feet over! I will say that figure skates feel much better. I can find my balance on them.
  • 🍅I’ve been reading some articles about distraction and ADHD, and one thing that comes up quite frequently is the Pomodoro Technique. I’ve known it for years, and I’ve used it whenever I needed focus. It was extremely useful back in the day when I was writing my master’s dissertation. I couldn’t have finished writing that dissertation without it. Nowadays I’m trying to use it at work as well and I find that the Clock app in Windows works pretty well.
  • ☃️We finally got some snow this week!
  • 💤It’s a long weekend and I’m taking time to rest a lot. I’ve been reading but also, I am doing more meditation sessions. I started reading this book Practical Meditation: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide by Giovanni Dienstmann to get back to the basics. I’ve been feeling more introspective these days and I am missing more quiet moments.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

This one example of the little things that make me enjoy Nirvana as my projects/task manager.

I have a project deadline today and when I created the project, I added a due date to it. This is a hard deadline, the day I must submit a budget to the Client. So today the project became red on the projects list! Which helped me prioritize my daily tasks while I was doing my daily time blocking.

I’m not sure if this is a new thing, but I don’t remember having noticed it before. Or I wasn’t adding deadlines to projects before. Something to remember for next projects.

Anyway, it’s a nice touch 🤩.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

These are some of the things that happened in my life lately:

  • ⛸️ I tried figure skates for the first time, and I prefer them. I can keep a slightly more upright posture and that feels way better for my low back. I also feel more stable and less afraid of falling backwards every time I try to do something new. The first couple of times with figure skates I feel because I tripped on the toe picks, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.
  • ♟️Last week I finished a romance book by my favorite author: “Check & Mate” by Ali Hazelwood. I just want to learn how to play chess now! I've been doing the beginner lessons on lichess.org and I bought a course at Udemy to dive deeper. I still don't know exactly how I am going to fit another hobby in my life. I'll take it slowly.
  • 📚 I've been reading a book for my Book Club but I was not too thrilled about it (“Master of Djinn”). I'm 90% done. I got into a small book slump the past two weeks, I did not want to read a second book alongside this one. I can't wait to finish it and move on.
  • 🎭 I've been reading about ADHD and had a conversation with my therapist about it. I never went after a diagnosis, but every time I read about it I feel like I have ADHD tendencies. Not everything that I read applies to me, but some things do. And that has led me to rethink the way I organize myself and how to make my life easier, specially at work. Things like the Pomodoro technique and Time Blocking really works for me. Also having lists that are more interesting to look at. I've been getting on and off with Microsoft To Do and I'm now realizing it would be a good fit for me. More on that later.
  • 📺 I enjoyed a documentary on Curiosity Stream about Knights (medieval knights, armour, swords, bows).
  • 🔗 Cool link with articles on the glory days of the early internet: The internet used to be fun (kwon.nyc) (Yay, one of my posts was included 🥰)

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Ok, so my experiment yesterday went pretty well. It was great not to have the email window open at all times and I did 1-hour sessions of deep work to focus on a specific project I have to get done by the end of the week.

I noticed I would catch myself pausing during the 1-hour session and having this twitch to peek at my email, but I every time I avoided opening it, because I knew I had planned a specific block to deal with emails.

Today I did the same thing, I have the reminders on my digital Calendar and my actual executing plan in my Time Block Planner (which I will tweak as I go):

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

1. I Didn't Do the Thing Today: Letting Go of Productivity Guilt to Embrace the Hidden Value in Daily Life by Madeleine Dore, 304p: This was a nice read to start off the year. There were some good things to think about, the main message being: it's okay to not be perfect, we don't have to do it all. It was a nice reminder, although I felt the ideas were quite repetitive throughout the book. It's full of the author's own ruminations about productivity and her discoveries. It doesn't have anything too ground-breaking if you've been reading the most recent productivity books (such as Four Thousand Weeks). Nice read focusing on not feeling productivity guilt.

2. When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Fairy Tales #2) by Eloisa James, 384p: The first time I heard about this book I thought it was going to have some fantasy elements, since it's supposed to be a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast tale.  It's more like a re-imagined version in Victorian England:  Piers Yelverton (Earl of Marchan) lives secluded in this castle, he has an injured leg, he is grumpy and works as a doctor (very much like  Dr. House from the TV show); and Linnet Thrynne our heroine, is extremely beautiful but disgraced in the ton because there are rumours saying she is pregnant (outside of a married relationship). Long story short, Linnet becomes betrothed to Piers (who actually doesn't want to marry) but Piers father thinks her “pregnancy” will solve the heir problem. And then it's all about banter between Linnet and Piers and how they fall for each other against all odds. Fun and lighthearted.

3. The Ex Hex (Ex Hex #1) by Erin Sterling, 322p: This is a cozy-spooky book: a nice comfort read with witches. I liked the premise: witches trying to counteract a hex placed years ago with some hilarious consequences. I loved the cat “Sir Purrcival” and I wish there was more going on with it. The resolution felt too easy. The plot made me believe the curse had high stake consequences but by the end it was too easily solved, I think. A light, fun read with a second chance witchy romance.

4. Capture the Sun (Starlight's Shadow #3) by Jessie Mihalik, 432p: This is the third of this series, and I wasn't too thrilled about it. I think it has the same formula as the previous books and it was the weakest of the series. There was a lot of unnecessary info-dump, as I felt some world building elements were already explained in previous books. It's a fun series overall, with sci-fi and romance, but the ending in this one was kinda meh.

5. Artemis by Andy Weir, 335p: I had fun with this book! The main character (Jazz) is very resourceful, and she is not afraid of taking risks. Sometimes I would think to myself “No, Jazz, that's too risky, don' t do that!” but she has a way of analytically thinking through a situation and concocts a plan that might work (with pros and cons). I loved the maps showing Artemis and how the bubbles were connected. Andy Weir has a way of skilfully explaining scientific ideas within the characters dialogues, it's super well done!

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

The past 2 days at work I felt I was in total reactive mode answering emails and worrying about them 😐.

Monday was as terrible as Monday can be, and I regretted my decision to book an 8am dentist appointment to start the week. Note to self: don’t book appointments at 8am on Mondays. I was a complete mess, I couldn’t plan my week or my day, I had 3 meetings back-to-back, so it wasn’t going to be a very productive day anyway (again, Mondays are the worst).

Yesterday I was still feeling out of my game, I was tired, I had a headache and some low back pain. There was a lot of communication activities with my coworkers, answering questions, answering emails and phone calls. After I did my shutdown routine in the afternoon, I felt 10% better and I left work 15 minutes early. I went to the gym afterwards and my low back pain and headache disappeared, and I felt much better.

🎯 So today I decided to test out a fixed schedule to check emails, instead of having my emails tab always open.

My plan is to have half an hour blocks where I will open my email and process the inbox. After time is up I will close it and continue working on my tasks for the day. This is the gameplan:

✉ Check emails 4 times:

  • 8:30am => A block right after I do my morning Daily Review slot
  • 10:30am => Mid-morning check
  • 1:00pm => Post lunch check
  • 3:00pm => Mid-afternoon check

In my Shutdown Routine block at 4:30pm I will check it again to process any outstanding tasks I need to capture for the next day.

I set the emails blocks in my digital calendar so that I get a notification when they start:

I’ll see how that goes today!

Later!

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

  • ⛸️I got a bit frustrated with ice skating this weekend. I’ve been thinking about trying a pair of figure skates. Mine are the recreational ones (K2 Alexis Ice Boa), with lots of padding and smart lacing system. I got around 3 years ago because my first pair was hurting my feet A LOT! I was talking to some ladies in my class with figure skates, and they said they are way more stable (hence, easier for beginners). So, I’ll try that out! I’m curious to know the difference, since I’ve been having lots of difficulty balancing on my skates to be able to do more advance stuff like cross overs and backwards skating.
  • ✅ After a couple of days testing MS To Do I got back to good old NirvanaHQ for my tasks.
  • 🔀 The 2-weekly-reviews routine has been working fine. I block my calendar on Friday’s afternoons to dedicate to the work review, and then do my personal review on the weekend.
  • 🎭 I tried doing my personal weekly review on Saturday and it worked much better than on Sundays. I’ve already updated my calendar reminder as a recurring event for Saturdays from now on.
  • ✒️ Journaling is going great with Standard Notes. I didn’t skip a day so far this year. It’s super easy to open it and start writing, any time of the day. I’ve been using it as my dumping ground while I’m at work as well.
  • 🧘‍♀️ Yoga in the morning is being consistent. In the past I used to do headstands (Sirsasana) at the end of my yoga sessions. I want to start doing it again. It’s a challenging pose, and now I feel my core and upper body is sufficiently strong to do it.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Every year I review my digital tools to see if there is anything I want to change. One thing that often catches my attention is my tasks tool. So I did a little experiment the past few weeks and tried out Microsoft To Do. I basically set it up and ran it parallel with my current app (Nirvana) for a couple of days.

The verdict is that I still like Nirvana, but I wanted to register this experiment and how was the setup for future reference. I will completely delete the setup after writing this.

The thing about my MS To Do setup is that I had to work with 2 accounts: work and personal. My work environment is all around Microsoft, so technically I could use my work account for all my areas of my life. BUT, I'm not comfortable leaving personal information on my company's servers, since they manage and have control of that work account.

The other possibility would be to have everything in my personal account, but then I would loose all the integrations between Outlook and MS To Do from my work account. Also, I would need to have my personal Microsoft login in my work phone to make it work (not a fan!). Ultimately, I like to have these two areas separate anyway, so the 2 accounts setup made more sense to me.

Just for the record, this was my personal account setup:

  • Overview, Next Actions Contexts and Projects List:

  • Someday/Maybe and References/Recurring/Lists

My Work account had a similar setup, but with less items on Someday/Maybe and also less contexts, since it was all work related.

Why it didn't stick with me?

  • I still don't like that I have to use a bucket called “Tasks” as my Inbox. It creates a small cognitive dissonance in my brain. It's not a big deal, but sometimes it bothers me.
  • I don't like having 2 separate “Inboxes”. If I'm at work and want to add something to my personal inbox, I'd have to send myself an email to my personal account, or switch accounts on desktop app or log in to my personal account. On the mobile, I could use Braintoss to capture items in either of my accounts by email. And then the captured item would land on the email inbox where I could “flag” it to be turned into a task. These are all valid options, but it created a lot of friction for me to capture anything, so it was not ideal.
  • I not a fan of how MS To Do deals with recurring tasks. I notice there are less options to set up a recurrence period. I prefer Nirvana for that.
  • Managing projects and next actions with tags: so I used tags to create a link between projects and next actions and it always get messy after some time. I constantly create variations of the tag, and I end up having more than one tag for the same project. Very confusing! It required me to pay extra attention when tagging: not ideal!

🏠 So, in the end, Nirvana's still my go-to. It clicks with my brain better, offers more options that I enjoy: project linking to next actions, recurring tasks flexibility and start dates, and it just feels like home🏠.

Previous Setups:

GTD Journey: Back to Microsoft To Do with 2 accounts — June 2023

GTD Journey: Moving from Nirvana to Microsoft To Do — June 2022

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I came up with some questions yesterday about my GTD system when I was bored. I will jot down some notes about the first one:

What do I wish my system to do to support me?

That's a good question because a productivity system should be there to support me. It's how I got into GTD in the first place: I was searching for a way to be more organized and less stressed. I needed a framework on how to deal with all my life inputs and dreams.

So, how exactly can it help me?

Here are some of the elements that I wish my system should do to support me:

  1. Ease of use: I want it to be simple to use. I don't want to spend too much time or energy on managing my system, but rather on doing the things that matter. A good thought experiment is imagining a day when I'm sick: will I be able to use my system then? Will it be easy enough to use it when I'm not feeling 100%? A simple system is more resilient and adaptable to different situations and moods.

  2. Digital and multi-platform: It should be digital, multi platform and sync between my devices (mainly laptop and mobile). I want to be able to access my system from anywhere and anytime, without worrying about losing or forgetting anything.

  3. Reminder system: It should be able to remind me of things. On days when I'm most distracted having a reminder pop-up on my devices really help me not forget important things. Sometimes I need a gentle nudge to get started on a task or to follow up on something. Reminders also help me keep track of deadlines, appointments, events, etc. that I don't want to miss.

  4. Punch list: It should be easy to narrow down next actions into a “punch list” so that I can plan which tasks I will work on each day. One of the key concepts of GTD is breaking down projects into actionable steps that can be done in one sitting. This helps me avoid procrastination and overwhelm by focusing on the next thing I can do. Having a punch list of these next actions also helps me prioritize and schedule my day according to my energy, context and goals

  5. Aesthetically pleasing: It should be fun to use and visually appealing. I think having a system that I enjoy using makes a big difference in my motivation and mood. I like to customize my system with colors and emojis and also it is rewarding to hear a sound when an action is completed. These little things make me happy and keep me engaged with my system.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but after reflecting on this question, I'm rethinking some of the tools I use. I knew that the visual appeal was important to me, and I feel that lately it has become even more important.

Here is a quick diagnostic of the tools I currently use:

  • Calendar/Email => Outlook: I see no issues here. It's easy to use. I use the web version of Outlook in both my work and personal accounts. I like how it looks, it sends me reminders, it's available on all my devices. I can sync my personal and work calendars to see whole picture.
  • Task Manager => NirvanaHQ: It's relatively easy to add things to the Inbox. If compared to other tools, processing stuff is not that easy because there are drop downs menus and selections to go through each time. Aesthetically speaking it is not my favorite. Adding emojis to it make it less boring. I like it for its neat organizational buckets and multi platform sync. I can make a punch list using the Star feature.
  • Reference system => OneDrive/Standard Notes/One Note: I enjoy using all these tools. They are multiplatform and accessible in all my devices. I enjoy their user interface; I see no issues. I don't need reminders in these tools.

🧐 So, I am looking at you, NirvanaHQ! I will give it some thought. More later.

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

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